FRANKFORT — The Kentucky State Auditor’s office dropped a bombshell on a Floyd County volunteer fire department Tuesday, in an audit report which noted more than $123,000 in questionable spending.
According to the auditor’s report, the investigation was performed at the behest of the department’s board, chief and current assistant chief, in March of this year when the Auditor of Public Accounts (APA) received a request to examine their accounts as they suspected misuse of funds.”
The auditor’s office performed the exam in cooperation with the Kentucky State Police. The exam has been referred to KSP. The former assistant chief/treasurer, Terry Triplett, was reported as a missing person in March before it was learned that he had unexpectedly left the state.
“The magnitude of abuse at such a small fire department is shocking,” Stat Auditor Adam Edelen said. “Taxpayers in Floyd County ought to be outraged that one individual appears to have used fire department resources on everything from televisions to chewing tobacco and pornography.”
The exam, prompted by concerns from the Garrett Fire District Board of Trustees and the department chief, contains 17 findings and 72 recommendations.
The details of the audit report state that auditors identified “over $123,000 in questionable expenditures, including, but not limited to, over $62,000 in questionable cash withdrawals, $16,500 in restaurant charges, $8,250 in checks written to the former assistant chief/treasurer, potentially over $12,950 spent on vendor gift cards, $1,950 in donations and $839 on fireworks.” Many of the questionable expenditures were made with district and department funds, and the report states that “the business purposes of these expenditures are unknown and indicate a gross abuse of funds.”
Other findings in the report included $4,600 in shopping/gift cards, $9,800 in questionable charges to the department credit card made at restaurants, food stores, hardware stores, super stores, a jewelry store, a local clothing store, and over $1,300 in apparent personal purchases.
Among the additional findings of the audit report were a number of computer devices owned by the district, including a desktop computer, external drive and USB thumb drive, kept at the residence of former Assistant Chief Triplett. Upon examination, the devices were found to contain 890 pornographic videos and 125 graphic images saved to the hard drives of these devices.
The audit also states that very few financial records were located following Triplett’s leaving the department.
“Time and again my office finds lack of proper board oversight is the real culprit when taxpayer dollars are abused,” Edelen said. “I applaud the Garrett fire district board for coming forward with its concerns and implore those who serve on boards – from big school districts to tiny fire districts – to know their responsibilities and take them seriously.”
The auditor’s office says that due to the nature of some of their findings, many of the issues have been forwarded to the Kentucky State Police for further investigation.
Triplett went missing in February of this year, though according to County Attorney Keith Bartley, Triplett was never missing. “Terry had laid out a plan to leave Kentucky with two other individuals.”
Bartley says that Triplett was using Garrett Fire Department funds and equipment, including a car and cellphone. The phone was traced across four states including Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana and Nevada. Bartley said after Kentucky State Police learned of Triplett’s plan through phone and text records, he recommended to the Garrett Volunteer Fire Department that they have the State Auditor’s office do a complete audit.
“The sorry part is, it is tax dollars taken to provide an emergency service,” said Bartley. “And what they’ve (Triplett) done is take away from these services. It’s really endangered lives.”
Bartley says that Triplett’s last known location was in Nevada. An arrest warrant was issued for the vehicle he took, which reportedly belonged to the department. More charges will be brought against Triplett, says Bartley. Bartley couldn’t speculate on what those charges might include, but said they had not come through his office yet, and may go straight to a grand jury and the Commonwealth Attorney’s office.